Longtime partner MikeRAS discusses his journey as a pro sports bettor
In the latest installment of the @RASPicks newsletter, we chat with longtime partner and pro sports bettor MikeRAS, who joined the team in 2006. Mike was an early member of the Betting Talk forum in the early 2000s, and an occasional RAS subscriber. His writeups caught the attention of Ed, and the two began working together. What started as an informal arrangement turned into a more serious, full-blown betting partnership. The two have been together ever since. Though Mike is modest about his own skill set, Ed has called him “one of the most gifted originators on earth.” The full conversation is below. You can follow Mike on Twitter or find him in the Discord chat community at MikeRAS.
Thanks for reading @RASPicks! Subscribe for free to receive new posts.
When did you start working at RAS? How did that come about?
I was an occasional subscriber and recreational bettor reading Ed’s writeups in the early 2000s. I loved sports betting, often to a fault at a personal level. I was losing the little money I had betting. If I was going to bet on sports I decided I might as well try to do it successfully. I was a typical early 20s kid who grew up on sports with a finance background. I figured I could win betting sports like everyone else thinks. I was mostly clueless but I was willing to work! I kept bugging Ed that I could help him and eventually he let me “intern” at RAS. I was working for free and loved working directly with Ed. I had his direct phone number into his betting office and I called it the batphone. I was so excited I could call him directly if I had a tip or piece of information I thought was relevant. I was learning how to find an edge at a basic level and eventually was getting a piece of the earn. Ed taught me so much to help point me in the right direction. Ed’s brother told me one time that I should be paying to work at RAS. I would never let him be my agent but he was right.
Was there anything in your early life that suggested you'd become a pro sports bettor?
My freshman year in high school I wrote about a fantasy land which had legalized sports gambling in all 50 states. I didn’t get more serious about sports betting until I was in college—and by serious, I mean lighting money on fire. But my mind at age 15 was already thinking of a post PASPA world.
What was your role at RAS when you started? What did your day-to-day look like?
Ed had an injury report and a scheduling report that went out on Fridays to subscribers for his college football service. I would find important injuries and try to determine their impact moving forward. I would also note if a team was in a letdown spot or look ahead spot based on the schedule. For eight weeks you got an injury report/scheduling spot report and the picks with writeups all for $99. I was also on the hunt for winners. The early 2000s was the start of a boom in analytics in college basketball. I attempted to integrate a lot of the old-school methods of handicapping I was being taught while using models and numbers to beat the books. I learned a lot interning, but we also learned a lot together. Combining subjective and objective methods of handicapping was making us a force in the betting markets and making noise for the RAS service. Totals were moving 10 points early in the season and eventually they took totals off the board for the start of the college basketball season.
Did you have any turbulence early in your RAS tenure that made you think this wouldn't work out?
I quit at least 20 times, not even counting the serious breakup in 2009 that lasted a month or so. Emotions run high and there can be conflict when big egos are involved. I often wanted autonomy with pick selection, and it took time to earn it. I was confident enough to think I didn’t need a big brother above me filtering me. The confidence helped get me this far but you don’t want to become Allen Iverson with your shot selection either. We were hard on each other when someone else’s pick or suggestion lost. The ups and downs are tough in this business. I have a tendency to be very up and very down mentally and working in this industry makes it even worse.
When did Ed trust you to make releases?
In 2007-2008 we started a totals service that was going to focus specifically on totals where we thought we had a substantial edge. The service previously had released totals and sides, but this was going to be a more extreme focus on totals for this service. Richmond, my alma mater, was coming into the season with a focus on playing fast and scoring in transition. I was super excited to play a lower total over with so much tempo upside. I pushed the play through excitedly and we released Maine/Richmond Over 127. And it went terribly:
After we lost the first-ever totals service release by 41 points, Ed told me it was a good thing I hadn’t quit my full-time job for this. At the time I was still working as a systems development analyst and spending every other waking minute on RAS work. It seems harsh in retrospect but I totally agreed. If I am going to lose early November totals by 40 points, maybe relying on betting full time wasn’t for me. In any case, I went through the post-game Richmond coach quotes to see where we went wrong and prepare for the next game. In his presser, the coach reinforced that the style of play they brought to the game wasn’t what they wanted moving forward. We stuck with the idea that Richmond’s totals were undervalued to the over and pushed through the next Richmond over against an opponent that was more willing to run with them. We got better efficiency the next day and won the bet:
That gave me a little bit more rope with Ed moving forward.
How do you handle losing? Do you find you can handle prolonged downturns better now than maybe you did earlier in your career?
Losing ruined my days in the mid 2000s. There was so much more at stake. Was I going to make it in this industry? Was I going to climb the ladder at RAS? Your day being good or bad being based on whether an 18-year-old makes a shot or hoping a team stops fouling down 10 late is tough. Family has given me some perspective. I have a 10-year-old and a 5-year-old. We have become successful enough that the day-to-day isn’t going to affect if we eat, if we vacation, or if I get to keep working in the industry. You need to stay hungry to find winners but there is also something liberating about knowing every pick isn’t life or death. Even if it wasn’t there were times it felt like that. We have the freedom at this point to just make the right decision with every pick or bet with a clear mind.
What is the benefit of working in a group? Why not just bet solo? Wouldn't that be easier?
As a single bettor you can’t be up 24 hours. If you spread out coverage you can have someone on duty at almost all times to make sure you have things covered if news breaks. It’s also great to have different perspectives on games. Everyone at RAS has different strengths and when you combine them you get an unprecedented product that isn’t available anywhere else. We have pro bettors all with 10-plus years of experience and have seen almost everything. And we also have new employees who are hungry and pushing us forward as a group. The benefits of working alone are you can often bet earlier because you don’t need as large of a bet to satisfy one person compared to an entire team. There are times you wish you were by yourself when you want to lock in a bet as the market moves. It’s fun to work in a group though. The team I work with at RAS are the main people I interact with on a daily basis and I call them friends. When we aren’t losing 4.2 units at the buzzer on NFL Preseason it’s fun trying to help keep the RAS ship moving forward.
Can you explain why winning on a service is so difficult? What makes it different from just winning as a bettor?
Winning as a bettor is night and day easier compared to winning as a service. As a bettor you can be much more agile, making a bet within seconds as information comes in or the market moves. A bettor can bet openers if you are positive the line will move anyway. You can grab stale/slow numbers as a bettor whereas we grade against a widely available price on the service. The service usually has a warning which adds difficulty to the process.
You've been doing this almost two decades, pre and post legalization. In your view, what's the biggest change we've seen in the markets since PASPA was overturned?
There are so many more smart guys in the space compared to previously. The market is much sharper and moves much quicker. Once PASPA was overturned gambling on sports became a viable career path for many. You had to be a bit of a renegade to be in the space before and willing to deal with books in foreign countries and with bookies and crossing fingers you’d get paid.
How do you avoid complacency? What keeps you motivated?
I love to bet on sports. I better keep finding a way to do it successfully or we are in trouble.
Do you ever worry that you will no longer have an edge?
There are enough markets that I am confident I will have an edge somewhere forever. But if the edge is only against openers in obscure markets and I can only bet limited amounts on the games will I still be doing this? How low would I be willing to reduce my hourly rate to continue to do something I love? I enjoyed doing this when I was losing money. I loved getting better at sports betting and then the thrill of betting with an edge. I don’t worry about no longer having an edge. It would be silly to assume I’ll be doing the same things at the same scale we are in 10 to 15 years. I have been with RAS for 16 plus years and we have evolved and gotten better as the market has. It will take a lot of work and flexibility for us to stay near the top of the hill but I don’t think it is impossible. Roles and positions will change but RAS will still be moving markets for the foreseeable future.
What would you say is your biggest accomplishment in sports betting? Is it just the longevity? Being able to do this for as many years as you have?
By succeeding at sports betting I have taken something that was causing me personal problems 20 years ago and turned it into a positive. I remember being on a spring break cruise and running out of money on the ship because I kept hitting the blackjack tables. My best friend to this day lent me some money and enabled me for the rest of the trip. I borrowed money from my parents in 2003 because I had lost some sports bets. I was gainfully employed and not starving but nobody was thinking that gambling was having a positive influence on my life before I figured out how to win.
Do you watch most games you have a bet on?
I have a TV setup with 4 TVs and a huge monitor but with how many games we bet, I’d have to say I don’t get to watch most games I’ve bet. Sometimes it’s good to watch other games than ones you’ve bet. It becomes easier to learn information or watch games when you aren’t sweating them. I like the idea of finding the next edge and winning piece of information instead of just rooting in what we’ve already invested in. You obviously can sweat and learn but usually another team member is hopefully already watching and doing the sweating on my behalf.
When watching games, what's an example of something that can help you, that you might otherwise not pick up on if you aren't tuning in?
There are so many things you can pick up from watching games. Body language of players and how they are interacting with their coach and teammates. Severity of injuries in the 1st half that can be actioned in the 2nd half. A player may be hurt at the end of the first half and his minutes could be close to normal in the box score and you’ll have no idea unless you pick it up on Twitter or are watching live. Even then you’d like to see how serious the injury is and if they are able to walk off themselves or need help. Style of play changes (full court press/more zone) from previous games is another. Watching how teams change styles depending on game state.
What is your biggest leak in sports betting? Like, if you're going to donk off money unnecessarily, how are you doing it?
In the early 2000s I’d say it was betting on the NFL. I was drawn to it because of how much higher the limits were when that should have been my red flag to avoid. Once I started betting with edge in college sports I often would abandon my original position at halftime. The original bets were coming in at 54 to 55 percent and my brain would come up with all the things that were going wrong as to why I should “get off” the pregame bet. I wanted to win so bad that my mind wouldn’t stop thinking about what was going wrong in the 1st half and why we were going to lose. That was a huge leak. Chasing losses, betting the Hawaii game. I have lots of leaks and it’s a miracle we’ve gotten this far. I was going to say betting the TV games but they are all available now in some shape or form. I think we all have leaks. The key is knowing what they are and having some self awareness and not letting them dominate your portfolio.